All bratwurst are sausages but not all sausages are bratwurst! Bratwurst was pioneered in Germany, the sausage capital of the world, and has been a staple in many regions around North America as well!
How long does bratwurst last in the fridge? Bratwurst is a type of fresh sausage that requires refrigeration. An unopened pack can last up to 4-5 days in the fridge at 40F. Once opened, the sausages will last up to 2-3 days. You can also freeze them for up to 2-3 months!
Read below to learn more about bratwurst, how it’s different from other sausages, and how to properly store it.
What are Bratwurst Sausages?
Bratwurst sausages were created in Germany centuries ago and existed in one form or the other throughout the years. They entered the mainstream market during the late 1800s and were popularized in the USA around the early 1900s.
This sausage is made primarily from pork but it can also (but rarely) be made using beef and veal too. Unlike most other sausages, bratwurst is kept uncooked and stored in an animal-based casing.
The traditional recipe for this sausage is quite simple but there is no definitive recipe because every region has its own take on how to make bratwurst!
Bratwurst sausages made their debut in North America during the 1920s and they became an instant hit. Many local butcher shops started to take orders for handmade bratwursts that would be made on a particular day and get sold out the same day.
These sausages became the default choice for many grill enthusiasts because of the balance of fat and meat in this sausage. In general, bratwursts contain a higher proportion of fat (up to 25-30%) which adds to their juiciness and flavor – but also makes them susceptible to spoilage.
In fact, their higher fat percentage is one of the reasons why these sausages were once made on order so that they could be picked up and enjoyed the same day. Today, these sausages are ubiquitous around North America and are sold fresh, refrigerated, or frozen.
Characteristics of Bratwurst
Here are some of the notable characteristics of this delicious sausage:
Bratwurst is made using a blend of spices that includes black pepper, allspice, lime, and fresh herbs. But the thing is, there is no “original” recipe for this sausage and everyone has their own take on how to season them.
Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the North American bratwurst, is famous for its mildly spicy and delicious sausages.
Some manufacturers, like Johnsonville, even closely guard their recipe and the company claims that their recipe has remained unchanged since the 1940s!
The American variety of bratwurst contains numerous seasonings which give the sausages a unique umami-laden flavor. Of course, the quality of the meat and its type also affects the flavor, but in most cases, you can expect a regular bratwurst to give a meaty, spicy, and umami-laden flavor.
The cooking method can also greatly enhance the flavor of the sausages. For example, bratwursts are typically shallow fried in pork fat or sunflower oil which gives it a unique flavor. The heat renders the fat inside the sausage and allows the seasonings to marinate the meat from within!
Bratwursts can also be smoked or grilled – each type of cooking method imparts a unique flavor but if you want a great-tasting sausage, then we highly recommend that you either grill it using coal or fry it at home over a hot stainless-steel pan.
Bratwurst is usually made using coarsely ground meat but several other varieties use finely minced meat as well. In most cases, you will get a very smooth and lightly chewy mouthfeel from a properly cooked Bratwurst.
When uncooked, the sausage can be firm but also lightly tender. As it cooks, the casing takes on a crispy texture, especially if you pan fry them.
Even when roasted, the sausage will develop a flaky but delicious coating with juicy meat inside.
Bratwursts aren’t termed as hot dog sausages because of their unique characteristics but they can be used in any way as a regular sausage.
That’s the beauty of the humble bratwurst! It is an unassuming sausage that takes on a whole different level when it is cooked and served between hot dog buns.
A simple combination of freshly cut onions, mustard, sauce, and buns is all you need to enjoy a bratwurst sausage. Many people also enjoy cutting the sausage into small pieces and adding them on top of salads and other recipes to give their dish a huge flavor boost.
Apart from its more elaborate uses, the sausage is perhaps best enjoyed on its own with virtually any type of condiment.
Since bratwurst is a fresh sausage, it requires constant refrigeration. Unlike other sausages that contain cured meat, this sausage can’t be stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours because it contains raw meat!
Bratwurst also contains a higher fat percentage which makes it particularly susceptible to spoilage. According to the FDA, you should store fresh sausages in the fridge for no more than 3-4 days – and you should always try to consume them within 2-3 days for the best experience.
Bratwurst is sold refrigerated at butcher shops or it can also be bought frozen from the supermarket. The best way to preserve their quality is to buy these sausages at the end of your grocery run so that they remain cold when you bring them back home.
There are two ways to store these sausages:
- Refrigeration – For when you want to cook them the same day.
- Freezer Storage – For long-term storage.
When you bring home fresh bratwursts, always keep them in their original packaging. Store the sausages at the back of the fridge at 40F for the best results. Unopened sausages will remain fresh for up to 5 days while an open pack will last about 2-3 days.
When you open the packet, you should ideally try to separate the sausage according to your serving size.
For example, divide the sausage into two groups: the first group can be used for short-term storage where you can fry or grill the sausages the same day or within 2-3 days of opening the packet.
The other group can be stored in the freezer to preserve their overall quality for longer.
Here is how to store an opened pack of bratwursts:
Step 1: Once you have divided the sausages, wrap all leftovers using a cling wrap. Tightly wrap the sausages on all sides and then store them inside a clear airtight container.
Step 2: Store the container at the back of the fridge at 40F for no more than 2-3 days.
Freezing bratwursts is very easy. All you need is a freezer-safe bag and a freezer that can keep the sausages frozen at a constant 0F temperature.
Here’s how to freeze them:
Step 1: Wrap the leftover sausages in cling wrap as described above. We recommend that you keep the links intact because if you puncture the casing, you will expose the sausage to air – or worse, freezer burn!
Step 2: Store the wrapped sausages in a clean and dry freezer-safe bag or container. Make sure that the container is dry or the sausages may accumulate freezer burn which can ruin their flavor and texture.
Step 3: Store the container/bag at the back of the freezer at 0F. The sausages should last up to 6 months in the freezer if they are stored properly but we recommend that you enjoy them within 2-3 months for the best flavor and quality.
To thaw the sausages, simply move the container into the fridge and let them defrost at 40F overnight. You can also heat them in a microwave using the defrost setting. Avoid overheating the sausages while defrosting them!
Bratwurst is a beloved sausage that can be cooked and enjoyed in many ways. Although they are highly susceptible to spoilage, you can store them very easily in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life.
Now that you know how long bratwursts can last in the fridge, here are some related questions:
Does Bratwurst Need to Be at Room Temperature Before Cooking?
In most cases, you won’t need to bring the sausages up to room temperature before cooking them – but doing so may help them cook evenly. The safest way to do this would be to keep the sausages in the container at room temperature for no more than an hour.
Please only take out as many sausages as you plan to eat and store the rest of them back in the fridge or freezer.
How Do You Know if Bratwursts Go Bad?
Bratwurst is a fresh meat sausage which means that it will show the same signs of spoilage as any other meat product.
If you notice a slime over the casing, a foul odor, or a change in appearance or flavor then this would indicate that the sausages have gone bad.
We recommend that you always check freezer or fridge-stored sausages before cooking them as eating compromised bratwursts can cause minor (or at times, severe) stomach issues.